Understanding the Dynamics of the Aging Process
Aging is associated with changes in dynamic biological, physiological, environmental, psychological, behavioral, and social processes. Some age-related changes are benign, such as graying hair. Others result in declines in function of the senses and activities of daily life and increased susceptibility to and frequency of disease, frailty, or disability. In fact, advancing age is the major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases in humans.
Studies from the basic biology of aging using laboratory animals — and now extended to human populations — have led to the emergence of theories to explain aging. While there is no single “key” to explain aging, these studies have demonstrated that the rate of aging can be slowed, suggesting that targeting aging will coincidentally slow the appearance and/or reduce the burden of numerous diseases and increase healthspan (the portion of life spent in good health).
To develop new interventions for the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment of aging-related diseases, disorders, and disabilities, we must first understand their causes and the factors that place people at increased risk for their initiation and progression. NIA-supported researchers are engaged in basic science at all levels of analysis, from molecular to social, to understand the processes of aging and the factors that determine who ages “well” and who is susceptible to age-related disease and disability. Research is also ongoing to identify the interactions among genetic, environmental, lifestyle, behavioral, and social factors and their influence on the initiation and progression of age-related diseases and degenerative conditions.
NIA has established two goals related to the basic science of aging: